What is a Board Certified Chaplain?

Where have I been lately? I have been working extremely hard at the hospital as the trauma season is in full swing.  However, I have also been working extremely hard on my board certification application. What? Yes, I am working on the Board Certification process so I can get my BCC BCC imagecertification/license with the Association of Professional Chaplains. Just as other members of the medical team go through boards and licensing processes, so do chaplains.

I am surprised when I explain this to people and they looked shocked. I get asked, “Really? Chaplains do that?” Yes, we do. At least those who are serious about their work and want to continue their growth, progress, and earned respect in chaplaincy.   Most institutions are now requiring that we have our certification, or are at least working towards it.

What is the process? Why did I have to cut back in my patient care in order to work on this application? With a self-imposed deadline of June 27 and a national deadline of July 25, I have been working for the past few months on my application. Here is what I had to do. Here is what every BCC certified chaplain has to do, in order to be considered a candidate for board certification.

APCSmallThe Association of Professional Chaplains has a list of 29 competencies with which I had to prove that I’ve either mastered them or am actively engaging them in my work at the hospital.   Those competencies focus on pastoral care, professionalism, medical ethics, patient care, interdisciplinary commitment, spiritual assessment, written and oral communication, theory of pastoral care, interfaith education, psychological and sociological theory, group and institutional dynamics, and personal and professional identity.   On top of these national standards, chaplains have to honor the APC National Code of Ethics.

For my application process, I had to explain what I am doing to master and engage those 29 competencies in my work. To do that, I had to do the following:

  • Fill out an extensive application and questionnaire
  • Already obtained a Masters Degree in theological study or pastoral care
  • Be endorsed by a denominational body, with whom I have proven to and they have agreed to back my work as a chaplain. (This does not include the two ordinations I already had.)
  • Write two verbatims (patient/chaplain dialogue of a visit) that included spiritual assessments, chaplain assessments and chaplain interventions
  • Write four essays that covered the four categories of competencies and how I met the 29 competencies
  • Obtain three letters of recommendations from my supervisor, chaplain colleague and members of the interdisciplinary team
  • Write an autobiography on what I encountered in life that developed my role as a chaplain
  • Mentor coaching with a BCC chaplain who works hours with me on editing, corrections and coaching. He also helps to stop the voices in my head when they tell me how bad I am.
  • Study and sign a Code of Ethics that if I don’t meet, I will lose my certification
  • Submit at least 2000 hours of clinical work (NOT counting my residency)
  • Complete at least 4 Clinical Pastoral Education units during residency
  • $325 application fee (which incidentally, is self-paid and doesn’t come easy with a chaplain’s salary). It’s $475 if you aren’t a member of APC.

Then once all of that is accepted (and it may not be), I will go through an interview panel process four months later in October. If I pass that, I will FINALLY be recognized on a national level as a Board Certified Chaplain and can put the letters, BCC after my name. Just like a doctor when he/she writes MD after their names or a nurse, the letters RN, and others, it will be just as exciting for me when I can write those three letters after my name.  I will have my credentials to go along with my spiritual calling as Chaplain. Don’t even get me started on what I went through to finally hear my spiritual calling.  🙂

Here’s the other piece that completely floors people. In order to MAINTAIN the certification and credentials, chaplains have to earn 50 CEU Credits every single year. That’s the SAME amount of credits that a MD, RN, NP, and PA have to earn yearly (varies by state). Did you hear that? Chaplains have to earn the SAME AMOUNT of CEU credits as their interdisciplinary colleagues on the medical teams. I will do that through classes, research, writing, enhancing assessment and counseling techniques, ethics training, and collegial teaching. I will also continue my specific training in staff care, grief support, pastoral care related to organ donation, and pastoral care related to trauma.

I was actually asked once, “What do you do besides pray with a patient?” (I should have written a competency on how I maintained professionalism after I got asked that question.)

This is what I do. I am honored, humbled and proud.

I'm Done

I’m Done

PS: As of today, I have completed my application, which is two inches thick. I just need to get the fee, send two copies in for the committee and then…….I wait.


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2 Responses to What is a Board Certified Chaplain?

  1. Hi Linda –
    Wow! I – like most people – had no idea whatsoever about any of this. You and all dedicated chaplains that have been through this process (and continue w/the CEU’s) are to be commended. Several months ago, someone shared one of your blog articles on Facebook. It had to do with the GLBT community; I have been reading your blog ever since and have enjoyed every post. Thank you for your support.

  2. Fred L Self says:

    Hi Linda, Chaplain Fred here, I’m just beginning to think and write my BCC papers. Thanks for sharing a clear picture of what it takes. They have added a few more to the 29.
    I hope you made it.

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